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Shriver, 1 of last links to Kennedy White House, dies

By Jessica Gresko

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 18 2011 10:48 p.m. MST

McGovern recalled Tuesday how Shriver was the biggest morale booster on the campaign trail and even managed to raise his spirits the day after they lost so decisively.

"He came over and put an arm around me and said, 'Well, George we lost 49 states, but we didn't lose our souls,'" McGovern remembered.

Four years later, Shriver's presidential campaign ended quickly, overrun by a then-little-known Georgia governor named Jimmy Carter. His failures as a candidate left him with a reputation as a charming, but shallow salesman. (A "useless dingbat," wrote Hunter S. Thompson in his classic "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72").

Although known for his Kennedy connections, Shriver, born in 1915, came from a prominent old Maryland family. His father was a stockbroker, but he lost most of his money in the crash of 1929.

Shriver went on a scholarship to Yale, then went on to Yale Law School. He served in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II.

Returning home, he became an assistant editor at Newsweek magazine. About this time, too, he met Eunice Kennedy and was immediately taken by her. They married in 1953 in New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Her father, Joseph P. Kennedy, hired him to manage the Kennedy-owned Merchandise Mart in Chicago. He was a big success on the job and in Chicago in general — and even was elected head of the school board in 1955.

Shriver had fought for integration in Chicago and helped persuade John F. Kennedy to make a crucial decision in the 1960 campaign despite other staffers' fears of a white backlash: When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed in Georgia that fall, Kennedy, urged by Shriver and fellow aide Harris Wofford, phoned King's wife and offered support. His gesture was deeply appreciated by King's family and brought the candidate crucial support.

Soon after taking office, Kennedy named Shriver to fulfill a campaign promise to start the Peace Corps. Although it was belittled by some as a "kiddie corps," Shriver quickly built the agency into an international institution.

After Kennedy's assassination, in 1963, Johnson called upon Shriver to run another program which then existed only as a high-minded concept: the War on Poverty.

Shriver's efforts demonstrated both the reach and frustrations of government programs: Head Start remains respected for offering early education for poor children, and Legal Services gave the poor an opportunity for better representation in court.

But other Shriver initiatives suffered from bureaucracy, feuds with local officials and a struggle for funds as Johnson devoted more and more money to the Vietnam War.

In early 1968, with Shriver rumored to be on the verge of quitting, Johnson offered him the ambassadorship to France. He accepted it even though some family members wanted Shriver to support Sen. Robert Kennedy's presidential candidacy instead.

In Paris, Shriver won many French fans, but he left the post for a job in private business not long after Nixon took office in 1969.

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